Scratchy scratchy – Race day 5 and 6 – the first overnight ride! PART 1

Day 5 and 6 – playing the no-sleep card for the first time ever – 387km to Connemara CP2

Having had some good food and a decent night’s sleep, in an enormous bed, I awoke feeling pretty groggy but the legs felt a bit better and, after forcing a good amount of breakfast down, I headed out again.  I was getting very quick at loading my bike now – progress!  I’d lost a bag on the road somewhere the night before, just some leg warmers – how I hated them – and my overshoes so nothing major.  Well, so I thought until I saw that Hurricane Hector was on his way in a day or two.  I would worry about the overshoes later though.  I had read tales of trench-foot setting in, on TCR before, for some endurance riders and wanted to avoid that if I could – sounded horrendous.  Anyway, onwards I went.  I decided I wanted to get to CP2 by the following evening at the latest and had vowed to do an all-nighter.  I wasn’t sure if this was the right move, knowing that I was already mentally quite worn down but I wanted to learn as much as I could and if I didn’t have a go I wouldn’t know, so I would stick to my plan!

I made really good progress early on and after an hour or so was heading towards Ballina town.  I had a Whatsapp message ding on my phone so stopped to check it.  It was my new pal Keith and he had been hit by a car.

The biggest danger to us cyclists is the car, sad but true.  It was the same in Africa.  It wasn’t the lion that chased me in Botswana that was the biggest threat, nope, the cars were always the biggest threat.

I tried to get hold of Keith and find out where he was so I could see if he was ok.  Luckily he was in Ballina and so I was close by anyway.  I found him at a bike shop which was right on our route.  I was relieved to see that he was ok.  A driver had turned left in front of him as he came down a hill around 40kph, he had gone over the bonnet and the bike had then landed on him and hit him on the head.  I told him if he had really wanted to see me again just to let me know and to wait at a Spar or something and I’m sure he would’ve seen me but NO, he had to get himself hit by a car.  Ouch.

L – on the coast road       

R – Keith post accident (always get the picture before sympathy)

The only possible bonus of Keith’s accident, apart from my managing to get ahead of Keith again, was that it meant I could get some new glow in the dark overshoes at the bike shop before continuing on. After an hour or so I wondered if I should stay with Keith and ride with him for a bit to make sure he was 100% but he assured me he was absolutely fine and I kept in touch with him all of that day just to make sure.

The roads today were spectacular and less hilly than previous days.  The light in the evening was truly beautiful, I had a playlist that my friend had sent me playing as I pedalled along.  There was nothing not to like.  I was a bit tired but, all things considered, physically I was in good shape.  My dodgy knees weren’t too dodgy and I was keeping a steady pace. I would still have times of self doubt but, while I did have dark moments, I was feeling ok.  I headed for Bangor where I planned to take an hours rest and food before pressing on through the night to get around the cheeky loops of Achill Island.  I found a pub open, only 2 locals and the bar lady in there.  One of them had a violin which needed tuning so, before heading to the chip shop for fish and chips to bring back, I tuned the violin!  It only had 2 strings that would actually work so I played them half a tune and then devoured some food and a couple of coffees.

 

Keith managed to catch me in Bangor and strolled into the same pub as me.  There was a massive empty room with couches in the back of the pub and I mentioned to the lady that it would be nice to have a quick lie down on them…..but she wasn’t having any of it sadly.  Something about perhaps forgetting I was in there – aye right!  Anyway, it was pitch black by 11:30 when I headed out so the incredible lights went onto the helmet again and off I went.  Keith had gone on ahead so into the drizzle I went, alone into the night.

Great views round Achill Island – yay!

The night ride was great.  I like riding at night with just the glow of the moon lighting the road a little, knowing that most people are asleep and you’re seeing things that other people aren’t.  It’s quiet and you don’t see anyone at all for hours which, sometimes, is quite refreshing.  I’m generally pretty sociable but actually I’m quite shy (no-one believes me) so the solitude is quite good for me.  If I’m on my own too much I do tend to overthink things too so it’s a fine line really.  I made pretty good time and got to my first sign for Achill Island.  There was a little bridge in the village of Achill and I stopped and had another snack there.  I decided that eating was the key to night riding, if in doubt – eat!  I like eating!  I had heard that the scenery was pretty spectacular around Achill but had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have cycled round most of it in the dark!

 

I stopped again near a school and contemplated having a snooze there but wasn’t that tired so carried on.  After another hour or so I saw a haven for all endurance cyclists – a deserted petrol station!  Another rider, Meg P, had given me some insider knowledge that you could sleep in petrol stations as they were often closed with no-one around before 5am.  I snuck round to the back and found a workshop building doorway.  I only wanted 40 winks really so put all my lights off, put on my woolly hat and my buff, kept my glasses on (in case I did have to move on in a hurry) and lay down in the doorway.  Didn’t even need a bivy and slept pretty well!

Race Day 7 - Achill sleeping

Doorway behind petrol station (thanks to Meg for the advice pre-race!)

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